Sunday, August 13, 2006

Summiting Baden-Powell

In which M2 finally gets on top

Sunday last I made for the San Gabriels and the Pacific Crest Trail for a long morning hike in the high country. After looking at map at the Big Pines ranger station, I decided to try and summit Baden-Powell, the 9,399-foot peak named after Robert Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell, the English gentleman adventurer and founder of the Boy Scouts.

I started at Vincent Gap, at 6,599 feet and wound around a series of steep switchbacks for what seemed like forever until I reached the false summit, where the landscape flattens out a bit. Not my favorite sort of hike, really. Think about doing Stairmaster. Now think about doing Stairmaster for three hours or more. Still, the trail was relatively shady and the mountain air crisp and unseasonably cool, perhaps as low as the low 60s, Fahrenheit. And the views of Baldy, several miles to the east, are often breathtaking.

Finally, I came to the narrow ridge that connects the road-facing part of the mountain to its true summit. Similar to the Devil’s Backbone area of Mt. Baldy (though mercifully shorter) the ridge is solid rock, with a steep slope on one side and a sheer drop on the other. I sped carefully across, not looking down, though in parts I felt the old, strange, vertiginous panic begin to rise. I controlled it, this time, however, and was soon at the top, huffing and puffing and looking over the Baden-Powell monument with its Boy Scout sayings and inspirational messages.

TIP: When feeling vertigo, it’s natural to want to lean away from the drop or precipice that’s giving you the heebie-jeebies. Don’t do it. Leaning away will only enhance the feeling that the ledge you are on is falling away from you. Resist the urge to lean and remain upright, focused on your goal.

There’s something very satisfying about summiting, like you’ve done your good deed for the day.

I hadn’t been entirely prepared, however. At the top I reached into my knapsack to discover that I had forgotten to pack my lunch. Oops. No Boy Scout, me. I only made it to Cub Scout, and then only because I liked the uniform.

Yodel-lay-hee… Oh, nevermind!
I all but ran back down the mountain, jumped in the car and sped back down to Wrightwood, where I stopped at The Yodeler for some grub. This is probably the sixth time I’ve been to The Yodeler, and at least the forth time I’ve head a less than stellar experience. And that’s a shame, because with its rustic, unpretentious interior, outdoor deck bar and simple, hearty pub grub, it’s just the sort of rough and ready mountain place I usually get a kick out of, year-round. But the service has been so inattentive, unprofessional and downright rude at times that I’m thinking of giving up on it. This last time it took 10 minutes just to be noticed and the bartender got my drink order wrong twice because the was too busy chatting with a friend to spare any attention to the tasks as hand. Not really the way I wanted to wind down an otherwise glorious day. You can do better, Yodeler.

Critter Count
Raptors: 1

Vincent Gap to Mt. Baden-Powell Summit Hike
34°22′31″N, 117°45′49″W
Distance: 8 miles, round trip
Elevation Gain: 2,800'
Rating: ♠ ♠ ♠

The Yodeler
6046 Park Drive
Wrightwood, CA
Rating: ♠ 1/2


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